Allambie Reception Centre history in brief
In July 1961, the Allambie Reception Centre opened to relieve capacity issues at Turana. It was located on the Burwood site of the former Kildonan Presbyterian Children’s Home (1937–c.61).
Allambie functioned as a reception centre for its entire 30-year history, unlike the other three metropolitan centres, Baltara, Winlaton and Turana, which also had remand or Youth Training Centre functions.
Allambie became the Social Welfare Department’s main reception, treatment, classification and transit centre. On average, children stayed between two and three months as per the recommendations of the Children's Welfare Act 1958.
Who was there?
Allambie accommodated girls (two to 14 years) and boys (two to 10 years).
Children were admitted to Allambie by police or an officer of the Children's Protection Society under a safe custody order signed by a justice of the peace. Admissions were attributed to family disruption or difficulty, or a child's behaviour.
Children were held until a Children's Court magistrate decided if they should be admitted to the care of the department. Children who were not made wards of the state were either released home, placed on bonds, or returned to Allambie for further assessment. The Children’s Court usually heard protection applications within a week of admission.
Other Allambie admissions included children who were already wards of the state and whose home release, foster care or children's home placement had disintegrated.
Allambie had capacity for up to 90 children in four separate sections. When the nursery opened in April 1964, it received babies and toddlers (previously housed at the Turana nursery).
The Education Department operated a school within Allambie's grounds, and some children attended local community schools.
In 1964, a day kindergarten was established for three- and four-year-olds. Younger children attended a preschool centre in the nursery building.
In the 1970s, Allambie had three large sections that placed sibling groups together, Waratah, Kurrajong and Mimosa.
Other sections included:
- the Nursery, for babies who were separated from other children for medical reasons
- Tecoma, for up to 10 school-age boys
- Heath/Cassia, for 22 adolescent girls
During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a significant shortage of suitable options for children and young people, and many stayed at Allambie and Turana for very long periods, worsening overcrowding.
Allambie employed more than 160 childcare staff across 24-hour, seven-day rosters. Additional social work staff undertook casework and planning. Over the 15-year period to 1976, the numbers of wards and children on safe custody orders increased and it became even harder to find placements.
During the 1970s, to reduce overcrowding and children’s stay lengths, the government opened a number of approved children's homes, and introduced alternative programs such as regionalised foster care. Services were also regionalised, including reception care and regional case planning, to reduce the need for a large metropolitan reception centre.
By 1976, out-of-home placement and wardship were starting to be viewed as last resort options and poor alternatives to extended family support.
In 1977–78, a reorganised department created three regional centres and regionalised reception care.
In the 1980s, separation of children from their families and communities became widely regarded as not only undesirable, but counterproductive.
Alternative care programs such as reception foster care, and new preventive and support services had reduced Allambie’s capacity issues. Capacity was reduced to about 100 children in the following sections:
- Acacia, Correa and Banksia – admitting sections
- Heath/Cassia – babies and toddlers
- Carinya – sibling groups and adolescents
- Lodge – sibling groups
- Kurrajong – mixed groups
- Waratah – mixed groups and children with special needs.
By 1985, the focus was on keeping young people in their own regions or communities and placing those awaiting court decisions with families.
The nursery at Allambie closed in 1986, and Allambie Reception Centre closed on 30 June 1990.
The Victorian Department of Community Services established a number of new community residential units, family support programs and services for young offenders.
Care leavers and the general public are welcome to visit the former Kildonan/Allambie site at Deakin University at any time during business hours. A walking tour of the site and access to some buildings can be arranged through the University Archives by contacting Antony Catrice. Phone: 9244 6730 or email . Deakin University Archives are also interested to hear the stories of those who lived or worked at Kildonan/Allambie or to obtain items of interest relating to the history of Kildonan/Allambie.
The Children and Young Persons Act 1989 required that the provision of services for children and young people on protective orders be separated from those provided to young offenders in custody. The Act established different divisions in the Children’s Court to completely separate child protection matters from criminal custodial matters.
The Children and Young Persons Act 1989 also replaced the terms ‘ward of state’ (introduced by the Neglected Children’s Act 1887) and ‘trainee’ (introduced by the Social Welfare Act 1960), with the new term, ‘children in need of protection’.
The old terminology was phased out in the 1990s. After this, both children and young people who were involved with child protection cases and sentenced young people were classified as ‘clients’, the term used today for all Victorian care leavers.
Young people who entered into the youth justice system before implementation of the 1989 Act, kept their trainee case history files, and not the later Client Relationship Information System institutional files (JJ CRIS prefix). This explains why the older records continued until the late 1990s, well after the terminology had changed.
Warning about distressing information
This guide contains information that some people may find distressing. If you experienced abuse as a child or young person in an institution mentioned in this guide, it may be a difficult reading experience. Guides may also contain references to previous views, policies and practices that are regrettable and do not reflect the current views, policies or practices of the department or the State of Victoria. If you find this content distressing, please consult with a support person either from the Department of Health and Human Services or another agency.
Please note that the content of this administrative history is provided for general information only and does not purport to be comprehensive. The department does not guarantee the accuracy of this administrative history. For more information on the history of child welfare in Australia, see .
Allambie reception centre finding aid, compiled by Archival Services, Department of Human Services, July 1997.
Guide to out-of-home care services 1940–2000: volume one – agency descriptions, compiled by James Jenkinson Consulting North Melbourne, November 2001.
Victorian Government gazette, no. 56, July 12 1961, p. 2411 [established Allambie Reception Centre].
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Reviewed 10 August 2016